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Kevin Schnepf, Published April 08 2013

Schnepf: Picking the NCAA tournament can be a shot in the dark

FARGO - The one shining moment of my NCAA tournament was picking Louisville to reach the Final Four. That was it. The Cardinals were my only correct Final Four pick … and I had them losing in the semifinals.

Making Indiana a Final Four pick was as disastrous as an NBA team making Cody Zeller a first-round pick. (Stay in college, Cody).

My Final Four pick Florida vanished – as quickly as the Gator defense did against Michigan.

And I didn’t think Ohio State winning it all would have been a shocker. Little did we know, the shocker came from Wichita State.

Like all the other 67 teams who tried and like the millions of us who thought we had the perfect bracket, there is always next year … right? But like a good college program that fell short, I have come up with a better plan:

• Pick against the coaches you hate the most. Of course, that backfired on me when I picked Montana to beat Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange in the first round. After the first three minutes of that game, I muttered to myself: “Bad pick.”

• One co-worker, fed up with this lingering winter, opted to pick teams from warm-weather climates. Nice strategy – considering Florida, Miami, Arizona and even Florida Gulf Coast made the Sweet 16.

• When in doubt, pick the team with a bird mascot. At least this year, you would have had Kansas (Jayhawks), Gulf Coast (Eagles), Marquette (Golden Eagles), Louisville (Cardinals) and Oregon (Ducks) in the Sweet 16.

• Pick the teams with the most fluorescent uniforms. That would’ve given you at least three of this year’s Final Four – even though you needed sunglasses to watch Michigan, Syracuse and Louisville play.

• Maybe opt for the teams that sound the fastest, like Greyhounds (Loyola), Jackrabbits (South Dakota State) or Racers (Murray State). Then again, maybe not.

• Maybe opt for teams that sound the smartest, like the Owls (Temple) or Harvard. Then again, maybe not.

• Maybe opt for teams that sound the strongest, like Bears (Baylor and California), Bruins (Belmont and UCLA) or Grizzlies (Montana). Like I said before, Montana was a bad pick.

• You would think teams with NFL nicknames would stand a chance: 49ers (Long Beach State), Bears (Baylor), Cardinals (Lamar, Louisville), Rams (Colorado State, VCU) or Titans (Detroit). Then again, maybe not.

• Pick a No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed. It’s never happened. But odds are it will sooner or later.

• Ignore the seeds and pick teams alphabetically. Wait a minute, that’s as stupid as picking Montana over Syracuse. I would’ve had Akron beating Albany Monday night for the national title.

• If you went strictly by the oddest name for a homecourt arena, you may have been a winner this year. The KFC Yum! Center is home for the Louisville Cardinals.

When we sit down to fill out our brackets next year, let’s forget about statistics (best guard tandem that gets away with traveling or best defense that gets away with hand checking); let’s forget about matchups (Zeller looking lost against a Syracuse zone or Duke looking slow against the Louisville speed); let’s forget about strategy (like coaches using TV timeouts and referee reviews to your advantage or using post-game press conferences to scold reporters … Boeheim).

Perhaps having your six-year-old, your six-year-old’s elementary teacher or your six-year-old’s grandma make your picks may be the way to go. Or, simply, throw darts.

Because we all should have learned by now that picking the winner of March Madness is truly a stab in the dark.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or kschnepf@forumcomm.com